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Laura Margolis Jarblum

Laura Margolis Jarblum’s deft management of wartime social services on three different continents for the Joint Distribution Committee saved the lives of thousands. Jarblum earned a degree in social work from Western Reserve University in 1927 and worked for various Jewish social service organizations in Cleveland and New York before the JDC’s National Refugee Service sent her to Cuba in 1939 to aid refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. The JDC then sent her to Shanghai in 1941 to work with the 20,000 Jewish refugees there, many of whom were dependent on JDC soup kitchens. But after Pearl Harbor, the US Government forbade American agencies to send aid to Japanese-occupied territories. Despite this, Jarblum convinced the Japanese to help her keep the soup kitchens open to prevent hunger riots. She continued to feed thousands daily, modernized the kitchens, and ensured the soup kitchens kept running even when she was interned as an enemy alien for seven months in 1943. After her release, she insisted on being sent to aid Jews trapped in Europe, creating a children’s home in Barcelona in 1944 and working with relief agencies in 1945 to help newly-freed concentration camp survivors. In 1946 she became the JDC’s first female country director in France.

Laura Jarblum
Full image
Laura Margolis Jarblum in France.
Courtesy of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives.
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Date of Death
September 9, 1997

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Laura Margolis Jarblum." (Viewed on March 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/jarblum-laura>.


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